Have You Played… Midwinter 2: Flames of Freedom

Have You Played? is an endless stream of game retrospectives. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.

Flames of Freedom, the non-wintry sequel to Midwinter, was one of those games that expanded my idea of what games could be. From one life to the next, I was a suave superspy, seducing my captors and riding a jetski to freedom, or a desperate survivor, chased across an island by a squadron of tanks and bombers. And then I took an amphibious vehicle to crawl across the ocean floor, moving from the greens of the tropical islands to the blues and grays of the murky depths.

I have no idea what I was supposed to be doing, but I had a blast.

File this one under “ludicrously ahead of its time”, I guess, because Flames of Freedom was an open world ‘go anywhere do anything’ type game in a time long before that was something we’d take for granted. It seemed, when I bought it, like the last game I’d ever need. Now it’s a mostly-forgotten precursor to every game that drops you on an island and says “try to have fun”.


  1. wombat191 says:

    oh man i had totally forgotten about that game. the first really awesome modern character creator.

    i didnt like the game much but my friends and i used the character creator to show what out tabletop characters looked like.. those were the days

  2. Stugle says:

    Oh yes I did – I actually bought Midwinter 2 first and only later found the original Midwinter.

    I remember the controls of two being infuriating, at least on keyboard and mouse, as they had attempted to create a more analog steering system – the longer you pressed left or right, the faster you would turn. Unfailingly, in the heat of battle, I’d be lurching like a drunk baboon all over the place.

    The polygonal graphics were really basic, but I still remember that sense of a giant world in which you had many options to achieve your goal.

    I only made it to the final invasion showdown once and then the game glitched out, so I never did stop the invasion by… Ras Makonnen, was it? Fond memories, though.

  3. Killy_V says:

    I played for years Midwinter I. First open world game I played, the sheer feeling of loneliness and dread in the frozen landscape was amazing. You had to pay close attention to the handbook to recruit new members, and the story was top notch. And dat map. I once won the game by exploding the three radio station, instantly recruiting all character on the map. You could make the game near impossible by adding mortars and bombers, both having deadly precision ^^

    Barely touched Midwinter II.

    • jj2112 says:

      But it was so slow… Even back then I thought that my Amiga was suffering to render the game and that maybe it was a little bit ahead of its time. I finished it because I’m a completist, but it wasn’t very good.

  4. jj2112 says:

    Well sounds like Hunter… I only played the first one, which slowed down to a crawl in places, didn’t enjoy it much. Mike Singleton tried to update Lords of Midnight but IMO the game wasn’t that good, the only good thing was the freedom it offered.

  5. The Bitcher III says:

    Never actually got around to either game. Shocking oversight on my part.

    There is some pretty ambitious stuff from this proto-3d era, stretching back as far as Mercenary / Damocles, taking in Geoff Crammond, Midwinter, Carrier Command, Starglider 2.

    It reinforces in my mind that the Xbox 360/PS3 era saw the big missteps in gaming. AAA titles coalesced around a third party action paradigm, trademark feature; sludgy controls and grind masquerading as content. Imagine where we’d be if storytelling, clever AI and dynamic worlds / physics hadn’t been thrown out the boardroom.

    Oh no! I’m getting old and miserable!

  6. Harlander says:

    I’d say this could do with a remake, but it seems like remaking stuff from this era is like trying to bottle lightning – the Carrier Command remake wasn’t too compelling, for example

    • Marclev says:

      To be fair, that’s mostly because it was a buggy mess that never really got fixed (or if it did, it was too little too late). Had all the mechanics actually worked properly, it would have actually been pretty good. And remember this wasn’t the first remake of Carrier Command, that would technically be Hostile Waters: Anteus Rising, which is by any standard a damn fine game.

      • Harlander says:

        You’re right about Hostile Waters being great, though I’d call it more of a spiritual sequel to CC than a straight remake. That’s just hair-splitting of course.

  7. thelastpointer says:

    “File this one under “ludicrously ahead of its time””
    *checks tags*

  8. NetsukeMonkey says:

    I loved Midwinter 2 as a child. But it’s a classic example of loving the game I wanted it to be rather than loving the game itself. It set my imagination on fire for the possibilities of what computer games could be.

    I’d love to see a modern day version of this game that was closer to how my childhood me imagined it. This would include converted islands attempting to convert other islands and vice versa. And *gosh* people moving around maybe?

  9. Someoldguy says:

    I loved Midwinter 1. Played it on the Atari ST for entire weekends with a friend, taking it in turns to do stuff and make the coffee or smoke. Never really noticed number 2 for some strange reason, but I guess that was released when my social life was at a high point.

  10. Phasma Felis says:

    I recall that we used to call 3D games like this “virtual reality”.

    • Marclev says:

      Really? When was that? I’ve been playing computer games and reading gaming magazine since the 80’s, and at any point I can remember “Virtual Reality” has always referred to the wearing of bulky headsets, usually coupled with some sort of motion detection technology.

      “3D” has, as long as I can remember, always been “3D”.

  11. Jay Load says:

    I owned this bad boy on the Atari and must have played hundreds of hours of it. It gave you an INSANE amount of freedom. Literally dropping you into its world and leaving you to figure out what you wanted to do. So many vehicles to try out – the flying submersible being king of all. So many people to meet (and a wonderful character creator to play with before you started). The graphics were crude polygons but the design was so consistently good it barely mattered. I struggle to think of a game even today that has portrayed an ocean better than this did (meaning a game that isn’t specifically about the ocean). I used to travel along the coastlines, like the blocky, less-annoying ancestor of Neil Oliver, just so I could watch the sea lapping at the beaches.

    I don’t think I ever even went to all of the islands. The Atari really was pushed to its limits by this game, taking time to work through the menu screens and load it all, so choosing an Island was not done casually!

    I seem to recall there were three islands specifically that you need to convert that could stop the entire invasion, otherwise it would come down to a percentage basis, but I never got near to beating it. This is one of those few games I’d love to see updated for the modern era but I don’t know any developer competent or lacking in sanity enough to even tackle it, let alone do it justice.

    Midwinter 1 was rubbish. Slower. More difficult to play. Tedious. 2 felt like it was developed in the future. It makes me weep to see how stale and safe games have become since.

  12. Maxheadroom says:

    There was a mechanic whereby you could get out of jail by seducing the guard. Some early copies (mine among them) would only let you do this if you and the guard were the same sex, which led to some interesting role play scenarios

  13. bobbylake71 says:

    Played this on the Amiga for hours, I remember the theme tune well. And staring at the loading screens forever.

  14. Tafkap says:

    What a genius coder Mike Singleton was – sadly no longer with us, but his games (well, mainly the Midnight ‘trilogy’) live on.

  15. David Mitchell says:

    Speaking of which, what happened to ‘Mike Singleton’s Midwinter’ planned for 2015? link to eurogamer.net and link to blog.themidwinterreport.com is it still in development? Mothballed indefinitely? Any news?

    • The Bitcher III says:

      The blog has twitter feed, last update 08/16
      For those still here. Great meeting today that may have broke the deadlock. Still time in front of us, but the direction is good. #midwinter.

      It’s an interesting project, for sure.

      • David Mitchell says:

        Aha, thank you my dear Bitcher! It’d be cool if RPS could grab hold of him for a quick interview update, if for no other reason to inspire the man and give the project a boost! Looks like a game I’d definitely buy anyway.